A traditional Myanmar greeting is “Htamin sa pi bi la?”, which means “Have you eaten?”. What a wonderful way to greet a loved one, and the perfect summation of Logan Brown’s very special event Welcome Home.
Food is intrinsically tied to home and place. It can be a gateway to a new culture, and it can reveal so much about a place. Historically, immigration and trade have had a strong influence on many national cuisines through the introduction of new ingredients and cooking techniques. For many people, food allows them to tell stories about their lives and where they’re from. This is something that will be explored during Visa Wellington On a Plate at Welcome Home.
Embracing new cultures and cuisines forms the basis of Welcome Home, a celebration of some of Wellington’s newest ethnic communities. Over eight nights, Logan Brown will showcase the cuisines of Myanmar, Syria, Iran and Egypt with a little help from some special guests. Logan Brown’s head chef Shaun Clouston hopes that Logan Brown’s standing in the Wellington community will serve as a platform to connect these new Wellingtonians with the city they now call home. “It’s all about enjoying food with our families and our friends”.
Shaun was inspired by conversations with taxi drivers who, upon hearing he was a chef, regaled him with stories about food from their homelands. Shaun has worked in kitchens with people from all over the world, and he’s found that each person brings a unique personal and cultural approach to food that can challenge how we as individuals value food and cooking, particularly within our own cultures. Because of this, he wanted to organise an event that introduces new cuisines New Zealanders and will hopefully break down preconceptions about some of our lesser-known ethnic communities.
Shaun has spent the last two months preparing for Welcome Home, meeting with and learning from members of Wellington’s Myanmar, Syrian, Iranian and Egyptian communities. He’s visited their homes to see what it’s like to cook their food in their kitchens. He’s felt first-hand a real sense of collaboration and community pride, with plenty of friendly banter and some heartbreaking stories of how these families came to settle in Wellington. The importance of family and sharing a meal together was strongly impressed upon him during these meetings, something he feels that many New Zealanders tend to neglect in the chaos of modern life.
Although some of the dishes will have a Logan Brown twist, Shaun has been careful to keep the flavours and stories behind the food front and centre. The unavailability of certain key ingredients has meant that home chefs have had to adapt their recipes to incorporate New Zealand produce. This influence works both ways – over time we could see these cuisines’ flavours and traditions changing everyday New Zealand food.
To set the mood, Logan Brown will be a transformed with decorations and musicians will perform traditional music. Guests will receive a glass of bubbles upon arrival before moving on to a shared starter of tastes from Myanmar, Syria, Iran and Egypt. The two mains are a slow-braised lamb breast with Bulgar, mint and dried fruit, and a chicken potato curry with winter melon and fragrant herbs. Both will be served with a selection of side dishes to share, including a Myanmar tea leaf salad and Syrian mahashee (stuffed vegetables). Finally, you’ll finish the night with a sample of sweet treats.
Many of the people that Shaun has met and learned from will be present over the eight nights as special guests to share their stories with you over this sumptuous four-course meal. In return for sharing their skills, some of the participants have simply asked to be taught a new skill themselves – for example, driving lessons so they can become more independent in providing for their families.
The journey to bring this event together has been challenging, but it’s also been an eye-opening experience for Shaun: “I just hope I can do it justice here [at Logan Brown]. It’s not just about cooking up a meal for everybody – it’s the bigger picture.” Even with their struggles, the families he’s met always make time to come together: “It doesn’t matter what sort of hardships they’ve been through – they still laugh and they still love to eat.”
Grab your tickets to this fabulous event and join us at the table.